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Hotel Napoleon… a hotel with a view and a past


The decision to visit Paris is an easy one. Which bank to stay on can sometimes be more difficult since the left bank, with its culture and bohemian aura, certainly fits a certain perception of Paris but the right bank with its iconic areas like the Champs Elysees and the Arch de Triomphe also has its supporters. It is for this reason that we offer our clients a selection of personally selected properties on both banks of the Seine. If you select a hotel on the right bank we do have to confess to a fondness for one particular property since we are pushover for a welcoming hotel that combines personalized service to today’s guests but which also has a “past” as they used to say.

That hotel would be the Napoleon for its location, its contemporary comforts and ,equally important, its movie style history. The hotel was built by a wealthy Russian émigré escaping from the Bolshevik revolution who met and fell in love with a young French woman (destined to be played by Marion Cotillard or Audrey Tautou if a movie is ever made). He married her but instead of building her a house in the country he built her a hotel in the centre of Paris one block from both the Champs Elysees and the Arch de Triomphe. This was in the 1920’s and the hotel is still run by the same family today.

The hotel was a hit with the party set during the 1930’s and even got through the war and reached new heights in the 1940’s and 1950’s. If you were to check-in in those days you might find Errol Flynn in residence or Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali or John Steinbeck, it is that kind of place. Josephine Baker was a frequent visitor and it is reputed that she held her retirement party at the hotel.

As its name suggests the hotel has a military look in some of the decorating, with striped wallpaper, portraits of Napoleon and his generals and a few busts spread around the public rooms. While it pays homage to history however it is firmly in the 21st Century as far as bathrooms and room amenities.

In addition to charm, the hotel offers a superb location for dining and sightseeing. Step out of the hotel and look right and there is the Arch de Triomphe less than a block away. Cross the street and walk through a short connecting street and you are on the Champs Elysees with its wide boulevard and combination of car showrooms, department stores and restaurants.

The rest of Paris is within your reach since the Charles de Gaulle Etoile Metro station is a two minute walk from the hotel and has four separate lines covering all of Paris. This gives you the best of both worlds, close to all the action but located on a quieter street with a more neighborly feel.

Continuing its military theme the hotel offers the Bivouac Café which is less like a military encampment and more like a club in London’s St. James’ Street.

It is a multi-purpose room serving as a cozy breakfast area for guests and a place for a light lunch and then evolving in the afternoon into a lounge where you can meet friends and business associates for drinks. The last time we stayed at the hotel two Americans, one from LA and one from New York, but both in the movie business, were in discussions with a French colleague on the merits of a screenplay displayed in front of each of them.

One can easily imagine a similar situation with Flynn and Hemingway in years gone by. So if you are looking for a pied-a-tierre with a past, consider Hotel Napoleon